Jaylon Smith emerging as nation’s best defensive player

The linebacker's play-making abilities have been taken up a notch this season.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Jaylon Smith emerging as nation’s best defensive player

Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith (+10.8) got a lot of attention heading into this season, and for good reason. At 6-2 and 235 pounds, he’s the type of player who is a commanding presence on the field for the Fighting Irish and makes plenty of plays. He graded well, but not off the charts for us last year, and a big reason for that was missed tackles.

Lots of missed tackles. 18 of them to be precise, including two games where he missed four in each. For all the traits Smith displayed of the type of player who had a bright future both at the college level and beyond, that’s just far too many tackles to be missing.

Fast forward to this season, and through three weeks he has yet to miss a single tackle. At this point a year ago he’d already missed three so we’re talking about a substantial step up. It’s only three games, so we need to see this continue, but it if he can keep it up it changes my opinion of him at least.

Instead of being a linebacker who makes a lot of plays, but I have to worry about when it comes to wrapping up and securing the tackle, now we’ve got the playmaking linebacker who isn’t making those mistakes or allowing extra yards from runners and receivers. That consistency combined with his natural talent makes for one of the best defensive players in the nation.

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • Jclbuxfan

    Darron Lee> Jaylon . What was Jaylons biggest play at ND in any season? He doesn’t make nearly the game changing plays that Lee does . 3 pick sixes 2 fumble rec Tds in his short career so far